Spelling bee activity

A spelling bee is a competition where contestants are asked to spell words. The origin of the spelling bee is believed to be in the United States. Nowadays, spelling bee events are organized in many parts of the world. As an EFL or ESL activity, spelling bee can be devised as a group or class activity that provides a fun way to practice spelling.

One of the meanings of the term ‘bee’ is the following:

A social gathering where people combine work, competition, and amusement

The word bee is also used in the following idioms:

  • busy as a bee meaning occupied,
  • a bee in (one’s) bonnet meaning an obssesion.

For EFL or ESL students, spelling bee can be carried out in different ways:

  • competitively
  • noncompetitively
  • individually
  • or in a team.


To prepare a spelling bee activity the following guidelines must be followed:

  • Start with easy words so as not to intimidate participants especially in noncompetitive cultures.
  • Reduce the affective filter. If particpants feel uncomfortable, they won’t get involved in the activity.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Repeat the words as necessary.
  • Begin witrh easy words and progress to more difficult ones.

The activity

If the spelling bee is prepared as a noncompetitive activity, one can follow the following steps:

  • Choose interesting words.
  • Dictate the words to the participants.
  • Give participants time to write the words.
  • When done, ask participants to compare and havea a discussion on the correct spelling.
  • Show the correct spelling on the board.
  • Participants work in groups to use the dictated words to provide either sentences, a story or a short paragraph depending on their level of proficiency.
  • Representatives of groups read out their sentences, stories or paragraphs.

To assign the activity in a more competitive way, follow the following steps:

  • Choose 4-10 students to stand in front of the class.
  • Dictate a spelling word to one participant.
  • If the participant spell the word correctly, s/he remain at the front of the line.
  • If s/he doesn’t spell the word correctly, s/he sits down, leaving the competition.
  • Write each well-spelt word on the board.
  • The participant who remains standing is the winner (and gets a prize!)

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